keystone

Unions Speak out Against Senate Rejection of KXL

By JT Haines, November 20, 2014

The Washington Examiner is reporting that certain of the major labor unions and leaders — including Laborers’ Int’l Union of North America, AFL-CIO Building and Trades, and Teamsters — have spoken out against the US Senate rejection of #KeystoneXL, with LIUNA calling it a “vote against all construction workers.” [Washington Examiner]

LIUNA’s position is similar to its position expressed last March in Minnesota in favor of a proposed Enbridge Sandpiper pipeline expansion, which pipeline terminates in the Duluth/Superior Twin Ports. (For excerpts from LIUNA’s spokesperson at that conference, see my post here. )

The stance is also similar to what we’ve seen from numerous, but not all, labor groups in Minnesota with regard to the PolyMet and Twin Metals sulfide mining proposals, which I’ve also written about on numerous occasions on this site.

Pipeline and copper mine proposals are obviously a huge deal in Minnesota right now, and organized labor is a vocal part of the conversation. I’m not an expert on internal union politics or the important differences between labor organizations on these issues, but as I wrote previously, my view of (certain aspects) of organized labor has taken a major hit as I observe what I consider to be a narrow, and often self-satisfied, outlook on some really complicated larger issues that affect us all. I think it’s time for unions to update their constituencies and long-term outlook. Ditch the old narrative and start work on a new one that once again considers society, not just “jobs.”

It will be interesting to see if unions can lead the way on environmental issues with a narrative that is fit for the times.

Post script — Just a quick reminder about what we’re up against, this from a facebook exchange I found myself in today about this issue: “One [the pipeline] has nothing to do with the other [climate change and toxicity]. The organic oil our Mother the Earth provides us with will be bought from the ground regardless of the pipeline. The organic oil our Mother the Earth provides us with will be used by mankind to improve it’s [sic] way of life. That will all happen regardless of the improved safety, improved connivance, improved employment and energy independence the pipeline will bring.” Hazaa.

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An excellent post from Steady City (quoting David Roberts), which relates directly to my recent post on the Forward on Climate rally. Regarding the Revkin pieces that Steady City and Roberts address: I highly doubt that a single person who was out there protesting the Keystone pipeline, or etc, (myself included) disagrees that a multifaceted Apollo-level effort to truly address the energy issue would be lovely (if not immediately required), or that other sources of energy (like Nigerian oil) may also be problematic, or that cutting existing energy waste is a good idea. Do we have a current effort equal to the task? No. Are any of these reasons to not protest the Keystone pipeline? Of course not. If anything, the opposite is true. Revkin’s reactions reflect a failure of vision. (Also, I’m glad he recognizes the perils of an energy oligarchy and costs of extraction, but his conclusion that he “would rather have the oil that we do use coming increasingly from responsibly managed and regulated sources here than the ends of the Earth and countries where oil wealth benefits few and the costs of extraction are borne by many” badly obscures a number of things including the reality that we have those problems at home as well.)

Steady City

David Roberts responds to Andy Revkin’s piece in the New York Times calling the Keystone fight “counterproductive”. I think it’s one of the most important pieces of writing on the climate movement so far this year:

If you want to argue that activists shouldn’t focus on Keystone, you can’t just establish that rallying around and/or blocking Keystone won’t reduce carbon emissions much. So what? Why not try it? Something’s better than nothing, after all. Even if it’s a total waste of time, that may be unproductive, but it’s not counterproductive.

There are benefits to an activated, impassioned constituency and the social and political machinery that brings them together in large numbers. It’s what the right has: an intense core, fighting on behalf of the status quo (using the status quo’s money), that has captured one of America’s two political parties. It’s what the fight against…

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